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An eight ft tall contrabassoon!

October 16th, 2020

An eight ft tall contrabassoon!

An eight ft tall contrabassoon!

Article Author: Oliver Ludlow, In-House-Bassoon Specialist and Director at Double Reed Ltd. 

An eight ft tall contrabassoon!

When this almost eight ft tall (235 cm) contrabassoon was brought to us at Double Reed, it was known as the ‘unnamed contra’ - its maker was unknown, and there were no easily discernible markings that could be used to identify it. After some careful investigation in our workshop, however, we were finally able to reveal a hidden stamp: ‘J. Higham, England, Manchester, T.C. Camdens’.

After some research, and some help from the bassoon community on Facebook (a special thanks to Trond Olaf Larson and Jim Kopp for their valuable insights), we have found that the Joseph Higham company, founded in 1842, were well known as makers of brass instruments, as well as oboes, clarinets, flutes and bassoons. We have not found any record of another contrabassoon made by them (but that is not to say that they do not exist!).

This contrabassoon is difficult to date, but it is likely to have been made pre-war by the Joseph Higham company, or by another maker and stamped with their name. The company launched their woodwind manufacturing department in 1904, and was subsequently sold on to Mayers and Harrison in 1923, indicating that this instrument may have been made between those dates.

It is made from a beautiful piece of figured wood, and has an amazing, resonant sound (despite needing a re-pad and overhaul). *Please note, for the best sound quality, high quality loudspeakers or headphones should be used for online recordings.

Have a listen to a recording of it here: 

We would love to hear from you if you have come across any of Joseph Higham's other bassoons or contrabassoons, so please feel free to get in touch. 

Here is a close-up of the contrabassoon disassembled:

Higham contrabassoon - close-up